I just realized something. I was poking around on the Rangefinder forum and I came across a member who had a link, in his signature macro, that said "My ten favorites." I clicked on it.
I think I've done that before. Lots of times. I might even do it habitually.
If you think about it, one thing that's more important to photography now than ever before is editing. Kodak used to estimate that between four and six billion pictures a year were taken worldwide. That must have been in the '80s sometime. Recently, Photobucket alone passed seven and a half billion pictures online. Given the literally hundreds of photo-sharing sites on the web, it seems a fair bet that more than a billion photos probably now get uploaded every month. It's even possible that the number is much more than that. If you then postulate that only a small fraction of the photos taken get posted, then the numbers of pictures being made today might well be ten times what it was back when Kodak was able to count. Maybe more.
No one person can see more that a tiny, tiny fraction of all of them. So editing—self-editing as well as editing filters applied by publications and picture editors in any of a variety of situations—is even more important now than it was in the past.
And it was certainly important in the past. If a National Geographic story had an average of 16 photographs, and the feature photographer shot 650 rolls of film in order to get that story (those numbers are also from a decade or two ago), it's easy to understand how much the editing process was crucial to the result.
It's true that it's helpful to have other people edit our work. But it should be acknowledged that this is hard work, something that only a few (good!) friends will do for you—and that only a few good friends should have to do for you. Voluntarily. The desire to have help is not an excuse to inflict unedited masses of work on casual, innocent viewers.
As a viewer of photographs by unknown photographers online, I certainly don't want to have to wade through unedited work. The stronger the existing edit, the more I'm interested; I don't have time for anything else. At the very least, the photographer should make selections. People who shoot fifty frames of the same subject and post all fifty don't deserve an audience for their work, past whoever they might be specifically providing the pictures for. Showing me fifty unedited pictures says "I don't know what I like. Maybe there's a good one in here somewhere. You decide." No: you decide. It's your work. Take a stand.
But when people say, "Here are my ten favorite pictures of my own work," on the other hand, I'm predisposed to take a look. It interests me to know what they like of their own work. Because, let's face it, however much we might like to believe that all the creativity in photography is in shooting, a good part of the actual creativity of photography also resides in the selection of what pictures to show: it's the confident assertion, "this I like."
Featured Comment by Sam Tinson: "Good point Mike. I used to work as a picture editor at a photo-news agency and nothing makes a worse impression than a photographer submitting a huge edit. It shows a lack of confidence and takes up valuable time. On the other hand, I don't go with the habit of including your 'best shot' as a sign-off on emails etc.—unless it is a very, very strong image, it can encourage snap judgment, which is not always in the photographer's best interest...."
Featured (partial) Comment by Benjamin Derge: "Here's another thought: If we can't tell the good from the bad after the picture is taken, how can we ever expect to do it before the picture is taken?"